After dropping Hawaii, 77-63 on Saturday, the Rebels seemed heartened by how well they played, especially in the first half. It was UNLV's final tuneup before heading out for the first two road games of the season (at Portland on Tuesday, at Cal on Sunday), and they left the hometown fans with plenty of highlights to last through the week.
It wasn't a perfect performance, however, which does make it a perfect candidate for an "Ups and Downs" post. Let's get on with it.
One is a fluke and twice is coincidence, but three times is a trend. And after Savon Goodman's third consecutive impact performance, it looks like the freshman may be ready to contribute on a nightly basis. Goodman played 24 minutes off the bench against Hawaii (his most extensive run of the season) and posted 13 points and seven rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the floor (5-10). He was so effective that Dave Rice kept starting small forward Bryce Dejean-Jones on the bench for most of the second half.
Another game, another collection of highlight-reel plays from Anthony Bennett. He was especially stellar in the first half, scoring 10 points with his inside-outside game and forcing Hawaii's leading scorer Vander Joaquim to pick up two early fouls. Bennett finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and three blocks, hitting 2-of-3 from 3-point range. Through the first six games, he's been the Rebels' most consistent player, averaging 18.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks.
Senior Quintrell Thomas continues to provide quality minutes off the bench, and he's been a huge lift for a team that is somewhat thin in the frontcourt. And when Mike Moser went down with a groin injury late in the second half, Thomas played the final six minutes of the game and helped close out the Rainbow Warriors. He played 17 minutes and tallied nine points and five rebounds (four offensive), but his calling card is his defense. Thomas was singled up against Joaquim for long stretches and helped hold the big man to a 3-of-10 shooting performance with five turnovers.
The Rebels' running game had been stalled over the previous four contests, but they turned it up a notch against Hawaii. Anthony Marshall played a nearly flawless first half and finished with eight assists, while Katin Reinhardt finished with a career-high seven assists. Goodman also provided a big boost in this department, proving that he might be able to change ends faster than anyone else on the roster. UNLV racked up 21 transition points for the game.
Mike Moser's health
This is definitely a situation that bears close monitoring. Moser was troubled by a nagging groin injury in the preseason, missing a handful of practices, and it flared up again late in the Hawaii game. Moser was forced to sit out the final six minutes, and he didn't practice on Sunday. He'll likely be a game-time decision at Portland, but even if he plays it's hard to imagine him being at 100 percent. That would be bad news for the Rebels, who rely heavily on Moser at both ends of the court.
After running the floor freely and shooting 58.8 percent in the first half, UNLV's offense ground to a halt in the second half. The Rebels were unable to get the ball inside to Bennett, which resulted in a lot of low-percentage jump shots. As a team, UNLV shot just 10-of-32 in the final frame (31.3 percent). The players and Rice acknowledged that such choppy execution won't work on the road, where the Rebels will play their next two games.
The Rebels could not defend Hawaii forward Christian Standhardinger, who scored most of his 27 points by driving the lane and either finishing at the rim or drawing a foul. Dejean-Jones, Goodman, Moser and even Bennett took turns without much success. UNLV is not a great shot-blocking team (at least not yet, anyway — Khem Birch will be eligible in two weeks), so allowing opponents to penetrate the lane is going to cause problems. The Rebels usually contain penetration with Justin Hawkins and Marshall, both of whom are first-rate defenders, but Standhardinger presented matchup problems because of his size. UNLV probably won't face many more 6-foot-8 slashers the rest of the way, but it's something that may need to be game-planned.
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